20-01-2004

There's a mixed bag of stories on the front pages of today's dailies - news that Vladimir Zelezny could have a chance of regaining control of the country's most popular commercial TV station Nova, the latest fatal road accident in which four young people died when another vehicle failed to give way at a crossroads, and proposals by Interior Minister Stanislav Gross for the Czech president to be elected in a direct vote, rather than today's parliamentary system.

MLADA FRONTA DNES leads with that story, saying that Mr Gross has submitted the plan to his cabinet colleagues. The new system, which would entail changing the constitution, could come into effect in four years' time, when President Vaclav Klaus defends his mandate. It's highly likely that President Klaus would win a direct vote, says MLADA FRONTA DNES.

Also on page one of MLADA FRONTA DNES, news that the Czech Republic's first ever budget airline is to begin operation in May. Travel Service, currently a charter company, plans to launch a Czech budget airline along the lines of Easyjet and Ryanair, flying to Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris and Madrid. At present only national carriers charging full prices operate services to those destinations from Prague, says the paper.

And the popular actress Jirina Bohdalova will appear in court on Wednesday in an attempt to clear her name after the Interior Ministry included her on a list of agents working for the Communist-era secret police, the StB. The StB, says MLADA FRONTA DNES, first approached Mrs Bohdalova in 1959, offering to help her father, who was in prison at the time. The star of stage and screen insists she was never an agent and always refused to cooperate with the secret police.

HOSPORDARSKE NOVINY details plans by Health Minister Marie Souckova to streamline the country's healthcare system. Mrs Souckova wants to reduce the number of doctors working outside hospitals, cut the number of hospital beds, increase patients' financial contributions, and introduce a top-up system for health insurance. Mrs Souckova has put her political life on the line over the reforms, threatening to resign if they're not approved by the cabinet.

As the Czech Republic prepares to send its first ever representative to the European Commission, LIDOVE NOVINY looks at just how much money he - or she - will be earning. European Commissioners, says the paper, are paid around 18,000 euros per month, substantially more than the Czech President or any other Czech official for that matter. At the moment the person with the greatest chance of taking home that fat pay packet is former Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart, candidate of the ruling Social Democrats.

PRAVO questions President Klaus's much-hyped decision to travel in a Czech-made Skoda Superb on official visits, instead of the fleet of Audis dating from the time of his predecessor Vaclav Havel. Mr Klaus arrived on a visit to former Prime Minister Milos Zeman at the weekend in an Audi, not a Superb. A spokesman for the President's Office said the Superb was being serviced at the time.

A word of warning from the Czech Meteorological Office in today's PRAVO - the thermometer could plunge to night-time lows of minus 20 this weekend, as arctic winds arrive from the north-west. Even in the daytime temperatures could be as low as minus nine, says PRAVO. So if you're planning to come to the Czech Republic this weekend, bring warm clothes!

20-01-2004

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